Temple University’s volleyball team (1-8) dropped all three of its matches at the Villanova Classic this past weekend.
The Owls lost a close three-set match to High Point University (3-6) in their opening match at on Friday night at the Jake Nevin Field House in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Panthers took the match, 27-25, 25-20, 25-20.
The Owls held early leads in the first and second sets, but each time, High Point created momentum and carried it through the end of the set. In the third set, High Point broke a 5-5 tie with an 8-1 run before winning the match.
Temple cut its deficit to four points at 18-14 on a block from senior middle blocker Carla Guennewig and sophomore outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou. Later in the frame, junior outside hitter Dana Westfield recorded back-to-back kills to make it 24-20. The match ended with one of Temple’s nine service errors.
In the loss, freshman right side hitter Peyton Boyd had seven kills and five blocks. Freshman setter Tyler Lindgren led the Owls with 17 assists, and senior libero Mia Heirakuji finished the match with 12 digs and five assists.
On Saturday, Temple lost in five sets to the University of Utah (7-2), which is ranked No. 24 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I poll. The Owls nearly pulled off an upset against the Utes, but they could not close the match out and suffered their third 3-2 loss of the season.
The Owls led 2-1 after three sets, but they had attack rates below 20 percent in the final two sets of their 25-23, 25-27, 27-25, 20-25, 8-15 loss to the Utes.
“I think we just need consistency,” Heirakuji said. “We played really well throughout the match all the way up to the fifth set, but we need to work on carrying the energy we showed early in that match throughout every match we play”.
Temple out-blocked the Utes, 12-10, while Utah out-digged Temple, 86-83. Graduate student middle blocker Iva Deak recorded two career-highs with 15 kills and seven digs. Guennewig had 10 kills and five blocks. Papazoglou recorded a double-double with 10 kills and a team-high 21 digs.
Sophomore Averi Salvador finished the match with 11 digs in her third match since returning from injury.
“Having [Salvador] back is huge for us,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “Her and Mia play so well together, and she just adds another element to our game. Her and Mia both being from Hawaii, they have a similar style of play, and the two compliment each other so well.”
Temple faced Villanova in its final match of the weekend on Sunday. The Owls fell to Villanova, 3-1, at McGonigle Hall. The Owls grabbed the first set 25-21, but the Wildcats (7-2) took control of the match and closed out the final three sets 25-21, 25-18 and 25-19.
Temple won the first set with a 26.5 hitting percentage. They held Villanova to a 19.6 attack rate. In the second set, the two teams were tied at 14. Temple then took an 18-17 lead, but the team allowed an 8-3 Villanova surge to tie the match at a set apiece.
The Wildcats started the third set, which they won 25-18, with a 9-3 run. Villanova led the fourth set 15-13 and then scored four consecutive points on its way to a 25-19 win.
Temple had a two-sets-to-one lead against a ranked opponent and had a one-set lead against Villanova, but it lost both matches. Ganesharatnam said fewer unforced errors and better focus could help the Owls finish matches strong.
“I thought that the start of the match [against Villanova] was very good,” he said. “We had great preparation, and I actually thought most of our second set was pretty good. I thought after that second set we just started making too many unforced errors. I’m not sure if it’s based on what Villanova did or if we just did it to ourselves, but we just need better focus throughout our matches.”
“We’ve really tried to work on closing out and not getting too comfortable when we are up in matches,” Westfield said. “We’ve tried to work on closing out games late whether we are up or down, and moving forward one of our biggest goals is to start to implement that closing attitude in every match we play.”
The Owls have one more weekend tournament at McGonigle Hall before they start conference play on Sept. 21. The Cherry and White Challenge will start on Saturday with a match against the University of Maryland at 6 p.m.